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Agriculture

Japan's dairy capital sends idle tourism workers to farms

Hokkaido launches free portal to connect job seekers and employers

The island of Hokkaido is Japan's largest dairy producer. (Photo courtesy of Agriculture & Livestock Industries Corp.)

SAPPORO, Japan -- With its famed dairy industry facing a labor crunch, Japan's northernmost main island of Hokkaido has turned to hotel and restaurant workers who lost their jobs because of the coronavirus outbreak to plug the hole.

The Hokkaido government debuted a free platform on its website Thursday where employers can post job openings and contact information. Job seekers can browse the listings and contact potential employers directly.

The platform is open to all industries. But Hokkaido looks mainly to place laid-off workers from restaurants, hotels and other tourism-dependent businesses at farms that normally rely on foreign trainees for labor.

"Hokkaido's agriculture, which is critical to Japan's food supply, is facing a serious shortage as the farming season begins," the Hokkaido government website says.

Hokkaido has been a popular tourist destination among foreigners in recent years, thanks to its famous snow festival and seafood. But the island also plays an outsize role in Japan's agricultural industry, particularly dairy. Its name is considered a seal of quality by many in the country.

The program also targets former Hokkaido residents who have temporarily returned home in light of the coronavirus.

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